While a deadly category 4 hurricane rips through Florida’s east coast, there is no better time to slip into another world.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already shown us many corners of its ever expanding world, from World War II in Captain America: The First Avenger, to deep space in Guardians of the Galaxy. But not until now has Marvel taken a good look at current events and made some compelling commentary about it. Marvel’s Luke Cage does just that. While being in the same universe where Thor and Iron Man fly around and blow stuff up, Luke Cage grounds itself to the streets and excels in showing what would happen if a bullet-proof black man showed up on the scene.
Following Marvel’s previous Netflix series, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage has a lot to live up to. Those two were praised up and down for their more serious takes on these characters, as well as their well-developed villains. Luke Cage definitely excels in the former, giving us a real look at Harlem.
The titular character was previously introduced as a major character in Jessica Jones, and although this show picks up not long after we left him there, it quickly introduces us to a side of Cage — and of New York — we didn’t know about. Harlem is in the same city as Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s a whole other story.
Luke Cage is at its best when its focus is at the street level where Cage (Mike Colter) tries to make a difference by stopping petty crimes and helping people out. The biggest appeal to Luke is that he’s got nothing to hide. Daredevil has a secret identity, Jessica Jones kept her powers on the down low, but Cage is talking to the press after surviving a hail of bullets in front of a crowd of people.
One of the best scenes of the show is also the most relevant. Luke is wearing a hood walking down a predominantly white neighborhood when two white cops suspect and stop him. The scene is then shown from the police hood-camera as the cops pull their guns and ultimately get defeated by Luke.
Now, the show was announced years ago and production started well before the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam, but Luke Cage comes out ready to handle these issues as if it could see the future, and it shows its viewers just how incredible and important a bullet-proof black man is in these times. Black superheroes simply haven’t gotten the same attention, but now with Luke Cage and the upcoming Black Panther film, things are headed in the right direction.
Luke Cage also has a better soundtrack than any Marvel show thus far. The soundtrack stands strong on its own. Having classic artists like Wu Tang and 2Pac adds a different kind of energy to every scene, but it gets much better than that. Many of these are performed live by the artists at a nightclub we often revisit in the show. When this happens, the performances are mixed with powerful shots of action happening elsewhere that mirrors the song perfectly. There’s even a popular artist that cameos and writes an original song about Luke Cage but I can’t justify giving it away.
While Luke Cage succeeds in its political commentary and music, it stumbles with its villains. This is particularly disappointing, considering that Daredevil and Jessica Jones had such compelling and memorable baddies. The performances are mostly great among them and they are still more interesting than most of the Marvel movies villains, but they never hit the same highs as the Kingpin or Kilgrave. I can’t say much more about them without getting into spoilers, but I will say the villains are stronger in the first half of the season than the second.
With Luke Cage we have another exceptional example of Marvel doing right by its characters. Cage himself is surely going to start entering everyone’s debates for coolest superhero and rightfully so. Mike Colter portrays a confident and humble guy who doesn’t necessarily care that everyone knows about him and his powers, which creates an incredibly interesting dynamic that isn’t explored anywhere else in the MCU. Luke Cage does get me very excited to see what will happen next and we don’t have to wait long because he is showing up in Marvel’s The Defenders next year. Until then, I’m gonna binge Luke Cage all over again and listen to its stellar soundtrack every day.
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